Kastellorizo is the tiny outpost of Greece that’s so close to Turkish shores locals joke that on a good day when the winds are right, you can smell the kebabs being grilled on the other side. The island was one of the last to join an independent Greece, being signed over to the nation in 1947. The 2011 census recorded its population at under 500 individuals, and it takes a long ferry journey to get to the island. But those willing to come this far will find a tranquil gem of an island unspoiled by tourism where you can live a truly authentic experience of Greece. Here are five reasons why you should visit this little island.
1. Go truly far from the crowds
Kastellorizo has a subtle, unique atmosphere. There is nothing specific that causes it, it’s a spontaneous occurrence stemming the knowledge shared by all those on this small remote island of the distance that separates them from the rest of the country. Notions of calmness and tranquility acquire new meaning on this far-flung island, located on the easternmost tip of Greece, away from everyone and everything. There’s no better place to head to if you want to avoid the crowds and see Greece without the glossy coating of mass tourism.
2. Admire the mansions
The colorful mansions are the dominant image in Kordoni, as locals call the coast in front of the port. The settlement is listed and strict rules govern any new construction or house restoration.
Many of the neoclassical mansions are specimens of the island’s heyday in the early 20th century, such as Sandrapeia Urban School, whose architecture inspired the University of Athens building.
Built in 1903, it now houses the school of the island. Other buildings, such as New Market and City Hall were built during the Italian occupation and have a different and impressive architecture.
3. Climb the hills to see Turkey from Greece
Visiting St. George of the Mountain, high on the hills of Kastellorizo may require climbing some 401 steps, but the view from above the village and across to Turkey is well worth the extra effort. Inside the monastery there is a small catacomb, the church of Aghios Charalambos. Before setting off, ask the locals for the keys as the church is usually locked.
4. Swim in the Blue Cave
Also known as Cave Parasta or Fokiali, the Blue Cave is a unique monument of nature. It is 75-meters-long, 40-meters-wide, and has a height of 35 meters. It is richly adorned with stalactites and when the sun hits the water at the right angle, the entire cave is lit up in an astonishing shade of blue. Dive into the cold waters to literally bathe yourself in shades of blue. Access is by boat or speedboat while good sea conditions are required to enter and exit without any problems.
5. Visit the historic islet of Ro
Located southwest of Kastellorizo, the Lady of Ro, Despina Achladioti, was for many years the islet’s only inhabitant. Until 1982, when she died, the Lady would raise the Greek flag every day, in a symbolic, but also important, gesture for the residents of Kastellorizo.